Archives For Rants

Back in late March, I discussed posting an article to this site at least once a week. Well, as you can judge from the April archives, that ambition went down in flames. I’m not one to use excuses liberally, but a couple of important events happened in our family, as well as a very intense schedule for my son, coming down to the last phases of a first degree black belt test in tae kwon do (you will read a little bit about both in the coming weeks). Well, he’s finally got the black belt, and Mom and Dad can breathe a little easier. And, to boot, we have more time.

With this, I still hope to post articles more frequently, if not every week, beginning with today’s little rant about patriotism. I appreciate the readers who are here and continue to read despite the erratic publication schedule. Enjoy today’s post, and start looking for more to come!

Besides the obvious benefits of Osama Bin Laden being taken out by a Navy Seal (the obvious: one unholy terrorist taker of American lives eliminated), there are some not so subtle side effects of the events of the first of May.

Many beautiful images proliferated throughout the web after the fact. Stars and stripes, shimmering red, white, and blue colors in abundance. We were introduced again to photos of the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks, standing tall in the majestic New York skyline.

I saw many photos of the symbol of American freedom, the bald eagle, in flight, perched and steadfast, or draped in the shades of our flag. These images reflect American pride and patriotism.

While it’s a wonderful thing to see these images, whether as icons on the social media accounts of your friends or in a newspaper publication, the truth is we never see it enough. It seems only a tragedy like 9/11, or the event of the death of a terrorist leader brings out the best of American patriotism.

It’s what I would call “part time” patriotism. And as Americans, you and I can be better than that. This site will never have a strongly political bent, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about recognizing the right from wrong and the things we can improve upon.

I fly my flag outside of my home three seasons a year. Only three, because the upstate New York winter’s cold and winds will tatter and shred the most well made flag. But I would still consider that part time patriotism, as I know I can do more to honor this country and those who serve it.

There was an uproar from some after Bin Laden’s death that “everyone celebrated it” in the streets of DC and New York. While it’s an exaggeration that “everyone” did this, it’s important to remember this one individual was responsible for destroying thousands of lives. In this particular case, you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling good.

As usual, I will invoke the old school view on this one: Bin Laden got what he had coming to him, and the method of his removal could not have happened to a better guy. Peace and diplomacy are the preferred route for most anything, but not this time.

This blog is useful for a variety of reasons, not the least of which it helps me remember things. I am part time patriotic. This post should serve to remind me to strive to become more patriotic on a regular basis. To remember to thank those men and women at every opportunity for serving our country, especially in the Middle East. And keep them in my prayers.

Did you like this article? If so, don’t keep it from your friends! Share it, tweet it, and tell me what you think in the comments section.

Presently, I don’t have a cell phone. That’s right, no cell phone. When I look around at my little world when I’m out and about, I feel like the only person without one. When people find out I don’t have a cell phone, they stare at me with that quizzical look as if to say “How do you get along without one?” Or the less likely “No cell phone? What…are you homeless?”

I get along just fine without a mobile phone. I work in an office, and there’s a phone right next to me on my desk. There’s a landline in my house when I get home from work. My wife has a cell phone, and my daughter does as well. I will, at times, use my wife’s phone to communicate. You can text on it very easily, and you can also make a call and actually talk to someone.

I’m currently convinced there is a wealth of phone power always within my general vicinity. Why be redundant and add one more?

I was sitting with a friend recently who was showing me the wide range of things his phone could do for him. He has a new breed of SmartPhone that could instantly grab some NCAA basketball scores, look at the weather report, update his Facebook status, and play some on-line games. I was thoroughly confused.

As I’ve stated before, I love some forms of technology and how much easier they can make our lives. My wife and I just joined the flat screen TV revolution, and we’re very happy we’ve been finally able to join this exclusive club. Of course, we had to join because our current television had finally kicked the bucket. It was a wedding gift from my sister and my brother in law, meaning it was just about 18 years old. I think that’s much older in “TV years”, however.

As I enjoy baseball and basketball games in all their high definition brilliance with our new television, and my appreciation of all things new increases, I have to ask myself: Well, what do you think? How about getting a cell phone?

I just can’t pull that trigger. I do love talking to people, and I love new toys as well. But for me, a cell phone is akin to a colossal waste of my dollars. I know I could probably use such a phone in an emergency situation…but everybody else has a cell phone. And I’m a sociable and brazen individual at times.

If my car ever breaks down, the conversation could go like this:

“Hey buddy…can I borrow your phone?”

That’s not all there is to it. Phones aren’t just phones now, they are status symbols. If you’re caught outside of your residence without the right phone…well, what’s a neighbor to say? What, no IPhone? No Android? You just make calls from your phone? Really? That question would come up again. How do you get along without one?

You know the answer. Just fine, thank you.

Kids, just remember: The “Old School” principles aren’t just about paying homage to the previous generations. No, it’s also about realizing what’s necessary in your life, focusing on that, and doing away with (or not even bothering with) the rest of the crap that everybody else is doing.

Here it is. That time of year again.

The time where it seems everyone is stressed out about the big holiday. Christmas. Many of us are still searching for an appropriate gift for someone, or making last minute Christmas dinner or holiday party plans. A lot of people say they are stressed. My wife has said it. My co-workers have said it. I overhear strangers in the stores say it.

The pressure is on. They feel the stress of so much to do, coming down to the wire.

Why bother with all this stress? Stop. It’s not that hard, very easy to stop, really. Your kids will not be disappointed if you stop. The adult who you absolutely have to buy that gift for will not be disappointed. If you stop the stress and remember the real (read: old school) reasons for this holiday, you will feel better about it.

This holiday is not about Target, WalMart, or Toys R Us, no matter how much you are persuaded to believe. It is not about the commercials and advertising bombarding you with the idea that this upcoming day will be perfect if you buy that one last present, or go overboard and put yourself into extreme levels of debt for the next year.

It is not about the gift of a Lexus with a big red bow on it (who does this anyway?).

It is about watching Rudolph again. It is about the excitement of your kids finding that one special present under the tree. It is about creating memories with your family and friends, and dropping some money into the Salvation Army kettle when you see one, to help those who might not have much of a Christmas at all.

Remember the birth of Jesus Christ? If memory serves me right, this is the original reason we celebrate this holiday.

It’s not necessary to get all religious on you here. But if we can reflect on why we hold this holiday in such reverence in the first place, it just might lower that stress level. You may be able to breathe a little easier. You might just think…”there’s no reason to be stressed at all, and plenty to celebrate”.

Especially in a year like this one. If you’re lucky enough where your only concern is what to buy your friends and family (and not how you’re going to pay for it) and if you’ll have enough time to do it, you’re doing just fine. No stress necessary.

So, relax, have some egg nog, and have a good time. That’s what the season is all about.

Buon Natale! (Otherwise known as “Merry Christmas”!)

God only knows, God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable to the mortal man
We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away

Crazy lyrics, aren’t they? When you’re working a job, and are part of the masses doing a 9 to 5 gig, the above can be a little…well, unsettling.

“Slip Sliding Away” is a Paul Simon song that was blaring from the speakers of  the almost vintage Cadillac that I drive on the way to work the other day. The irony of the above lyric hit me like the cliched ton of bricks:

Is my life actually slip sliding away while I go to my cubicle each day and perform the duties of an employee?

And is that a reason to dislike, even hate, the circumstance?

I thought about it for awhile, and concluded that I’m stuck somewhere in the middle. Worker bee limbo. I neither dislike nor love the current situation as it pertains to work.

Not everyone hates their job. For some, the only emotion is indifference.

Maybe it’s a by-product of a lousy economy, but there just seems to be an avalanche of individuals these days that will no longer work for the man. They are running micro-businesses, working independently, and writing blog posts all about it. I must admit, at times I am jealous. They all seem to have it going in the right direction.

What’s an old school kinda guy to do? Well, this theory seems to work—

It’s perfectly fine to try and find some meaning within your day job, collect that check, and have a great passion outside of work.

Find something else to do, besides your job, that will stoke your fire. It doesn’t have to be related to work. Who wrote that rule anyway??

My grandmother worked day and night in her restaurant without necessarily “loving” everything that she did. My grandfather worked a shift in factories, and then went to the restaurant to help out after his day was done at the  job. I doubt he was “passionate” about most aspects of his work. He would probably say he did it for the food, the clothing, and the roof.

My job fulfills income criteria as well. That’s all I really require of it.

The idea of a “dream job” can be a fallacy for many of us. I don’t have that one singular, all consuming passion for something that I could make my living at. I do, however, love aspects of my work in sales. I love the competition and the consistent striving to be better than I was yesterday.

My passion is reserved for my God, my family, my friends, ocean front vacations, and my baseball team. My work can just be my work.

Excuse me while I work my job, collect my pay, and yes, glide down that highway.

A well done blog article that I was made aware of recently detailed a subject that is sure to raise the ire of some Italian Americans, but I just thought it to be totally ridiculous: a guided tour of New York’s most famous mafia “landmarks”! An excerpt from the article reads:

An enterprising soul by the name of John Ciarcia is, dare I say it, “making you an offer you can’t refuse”: A bus tour of  (New York City’s) most famous and beloved gangland sites.

Even though there are several Mafia walking-tour guides, Ciarcia offers the first mobile tour on this subject. “Everybody loves the mob,” he said, a restaurateur, radio host and actor (he had a bit part in “The Sopranos“). “We’d like to give them a taste of history in the mob.”

Starting next month, The New York City Mob Tour will guide you through the best in former Mafioso stomping grounds, watering holes and killing fields. Replete with newsreels and film clips describing the various points of interest, you and your own gang could marvel at what was really hot in New York in those fun-filled, captivating days of old.

Are there less tourist activities in the New York City area than I had imagined?

As to why something like this comes to fruition, it’s simple: Negativity sells, and everybody’s buying. As long as people perceive that the term “mafia” equals an exciting and affluent, albeit dangerous, lifestyle, we will continue to be interested.

No doubt, what looks like exploitation of a proud culture here will offend some people. That’s the idea. The more people it offends, the louder the buzz. And then it sells. Negativity sells. And we buy it.

I have Googled “famous Italian Americans” in the past and was always impressed by the sheer number of the thousands of influential people who have had a positive impact on this country.

I like to reference our sporting figures. Individuals like DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Joe Montana, Vince Lombardi were huge.

And those are just some of the famous ones. There are millions of ordinary folks who did exactly the same thing.

My grandmother’s family came here from Sicily to escape the influence of organized crime. They left a comfortable life in their home country, came here with nothing, but still managed to build themselves a piece of the American dream. There will never be a bus tour for that, we know. But that is the true heritage of the Italian immigrants that came to this land.

I’ll make you “an offer you can’t refuse”. Or shouldn’t refuse. Focus on the positive aspects of your culture and heritage, whatever it may be, and ignore the rest.

Since this economy started tanking, there has been a sudden rush to a different lifestyle for some Americans. People are spending less money, trying to live a little less complicated, maybe re-setting some priorities. Saving money, as well.

I have to admit, seeing the mad scramble to a simple life makes me smile, at times even chuckle. This new breed of American consumer is now trying to adopt a life and financial style that I have been fortunate to observe most of my years: it was the normal way the majority of my older family members operated their entire lives.

I could just spotlight on my grandparents in this post. But it wasn’t just my Nonna and my Pop that lived the so-called frugal lifestyle. Nope, it was also their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. Every one of them, with maybe one or two exceptions, was financially responsible and focused on their relationships and experiences rather than material goods, while chasing the good life here in the USA.

Fellow blogger Vince Scordo published a wonderful article detailing how Italian American immigrants used methods other than material things to feel an element of wealth in their lives . Like his examples, many of my relatives and friends found their luxuries in the food they prepared, ate, and shared with others.

My grandparents always worked hard enough to afford themselves some of the finer things in life. But things like clothes, cars, gadgets, or dinners outside the home were never high on their priority list. They were more interested in their work, family, and their home. Oh yeah, and the food.

My family’s food was and is central to their existence. Always high quality, home made, and eaten with the people we loved. Some of my fondest memories of time spent with my grandmother (and more recently, my great aunt) were helping to prepare meals, eating them, having a glass of wine, and when I wasn’t helping, I was observing .

At the other end of the spectrum, I know people outside of my family circle that own big houses, multiple vehicles, have ample sums of money, and they eat fast food because of the illusion that it’s quick and cheap. That’s where they prefer to save their money. On the food they put into their bodies.

Can that possibly be the new definition of  insanity?

As for myself, in this day and age, there are a lot more temptations to spend now than say, twenty years ago. Who hasn’t at one time or another, desired the high end Blackberry or a 50 inch LCD flat panel?

We all do. But things are not usually high on my priority list. Unless they are related to a kitchen remodel, but that’s for another post. I’ll take some grief occasionally for not having a cell phone, driving a Cadillac that can only be described as vintage, or for still enjoying a 27 inch television that we got for a wedding gift so long ago.

I simply don’t care about a lot of this stuff. I’m apathetic. I’d rather spend my time doing, and thinking about, other aspects of my life. The food is one of them. When my wife and I prepare a meal together, and then sit down to eat with our kids—I really believe I am partaking in one of life’s true luxuries.

These days, a lot of Americans seem to agree with this way of thinking. But will this new way of perceiving the lifestyle stay entrenched in our culture?

I don’t think so. When the economy is back in high gear, people will become less fearful—and go back to their credit card slingin’, high spending ways. And you go right ahead. Our economy is built on consumer spending, and it needs that spending to save it. So do your best.

But, I will leave it to you to save our economy. I will continue on my path, the same path I learned from my grandmother for so many years. Not the one that goes to the stores, the coffee shops, and the car dealers. This path leads into your home, your family, your friends, and your beliefs.

When I was younger, there was often a large party of people in my grandparents’ cellar helping my Nonna clean and cook bushels upon bushels of tomatoes for home canning purposes.

I didn’t know it then, but I now know that I was watching the good life in action. No accessories required.